Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Don't Miss this Christmas Classic- A Movie Review

We watched It's a Wonderful Life last night as part of our Christmas traditions. Every time I watch it I pick up something new. I love the idea in that movie that every person has a unique contribution to make; if he or she doesn't live then there is a hole in the universe. You've all heard of that movie, plus A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. How many of you have heard of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey?

This is a picture book that has been made into a movie. I've been reading the picture book to my kids almost every year for years. I was delighted to find out this year that it has been made into a movie. I give it five stars! This is one case where the movie is better than the book. The film's writer did a great job of fleshing out the story to make it into movie-length without compromising consistency. It seems like most Christmas stories are about having a change of heart to become more Christlike, and this one is no exception. Jonathan Toomey is a lonely, bitter man, but by the end of the movie he has been transformed, because of the Christmas spirit of a little boy and the boy's mother.

I love how the story is so simple. The boy and the mother want a nativity set to replace one that they lost so they ask Mr. Toomey, a woodcarver, to carve a new set. As Mr. Toomey carves each figure the boy lets him know how special and expressive each figure should look because they were there when Christ was born. I also liked the theme presented that Mary and Jesus shared a special love for each other. It's that love that reaches into the bitter Mr. Toomey's heart and changes it. At Christmas time, we celebrate the love that God has for all of us, as evidenced by the birth and life of His son, as it says in John 3:16. At the end of the movie, the widow McDowell says, "Christmas is very special." It's not special because of the material goods we get, it's special because we know we have a Savior, Jesuc Christ, to rescue us from pain and death. Not just at the end of our life, but every day. This movie is so lovely. Be sure to watch it this holiday season.

The theme ties into Tree of Life Mothering, the title of my book which will be out soon, but I will have tow write about that another time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adult Leadership Education on a Mother's Budget of Time and Money

I've been thinking about this topic (mentioned in the title of this post) a lot lately. Many times when I am thinking about something, somehow the vibes go out to other people and then they start talking about it. So on one of the TJED email lists I am on some moms were talking about how to get a leadership education when you can't afford classes at George Wythe University (GWU).

I would really love to get my master's and PhD from GWU just so I have the knowledge about government and history and economy, based in the classics, guided by a mentor of liberal arts. All of those subjects fascinate me. I want these degrees even though the school is unaccredited. (I already have a bachelor's from an accredited school, BYU, but I have to confess, I picked my major based on how fast I could be done with school and get on to real life, not how much I was really interested in the subject. And no, it's not Family Life or Psychology.) But I don't have the money for the degree program right now. The time is not really right anyway with my new baby. I think one more obligation would make me go crazy. I am still figuring out how to get the six older kids to get the laundry all folded and put away. (I refuse to do it all. My days of folding laundry while nursing with two little kids running around are over.)

I would like to attract this education into my life, and the best way to do that is to organize my life and set up forms and systems that will allow this education to flow easily along with my homemaking, homeschooling, and mothering. So I am practicing studying what I would be studying if I were taking GW classes. The school has started an online program for students anywhere in the world that allows for interactivity in real time. Sounds cool. I can't wait to do it. Are any of you doing it?

Perhaps you want this education too. You, like me perhaps, want an education that will help you redeem this country from socialism and allow you to stand for liberty. small government, and strong families. You want to inspire your children to get a world-class education. Remember, an education is not so much about a degree from a fancy institution as it is studying words, getting great ideas into your head, thinking about them, asking the right questions, then recording your answers. Here's a strategy. Remember this is coming from a real life mom with seven kids who only sits down to eat, nurse, and drive. (I blog standing up...just kidding!) Having time to sit and study for an hour is impossible on a daily basis.

1. Contact the school and ask them to send you the booklet that details the curriculum for the undergraduate, master's and PhD programs. This is the booklet they pass out at their "Statesmanship Retreats" which is a fancy term for a two-day advertisement to sign the dotted line and become a student. I went to one two years ago and enjoyed it, despite the commercial aspect.

2. Pick the degree program you want.

3. Pick a book in the degree program and get it from your public library or bookstore. Put this book in a place where you nurse the baby. That way it's always there.

4. Pick another book to have in the car to read while waiting to pick up kids at classes. Have another book in your diaper bag or purse for pack meeting time.

5. Pick another book to have at any other place you nurse.

6. Find out if any of the books on the list are on CD from your library. Listen while fixing meals. You can also find many things, like Democracy in America, and The Federalist Papers, at librivox.org. I got my tech assistant (16-year-old son) to put these on my iPod and am so grateful for that.

7. Have another CD in the car to listen to while you drive. I have listened to the 5000 Year Leap about three times through now over the past year and a half just from all the driving around I do. It only put me to sleep once while driving. On second thought, listen to the 5000 year leap while in the house.

6. Have something handy to record the epiphanies you get. I just happened to have recently replaced my cell phone since the old one died. The new one has a voice recorder. i keep it in my pocket and record what I am learning. I can even record ideas while I am changing a diaper or nursing.

7. Have one time period a week where you transcribe what you record into a notebook. I am still figuring this one out. This time might be while I am waiting in Bountiful during my son's dance class. Maybe I will have one or two pages in my book devoted to each book I am working on and then eventually I will put them in a three-ring binder.

8. During your mealtimes, tell your children and husband what you are learning. Ask them to ask questions and see if they can stump you. This might be hard since they aren't reading what you are reading and don't know the answers they are examining you for. On page 120 of the book, Leadership Education; The Phases of Learning Rachel DeMille tells the story of realizing that she was spending four hours a day fixing meals. She decided to turn that time into study time. I am not sure what that looked like, I am wondering if that means she started listening to books on CD and then had Oliver quiz her over mealtime. We don't all have Oliver for a husband but I bet our husbands and kids are smart enough to get into the spirit of oral examinations for the benefit of our liberal arts education.

9. Sign up at goodreads.com and find reviews of the books you are reading/listening to. Email those people on goodreads questions about their comments. Check out the favorite quotes from the books as well. You probably know a few GW grads or current students who you can find on goodreads or just plain email and ask them questions. If you don't know any and want some names, let me know.

10. You can maybe find some people at libercommunities.com in your own town to ask questions or join their book discussion groups

11. Rachel DeMille has a ning network for TJEDers. You could start a discussion there. Contact her at to find out how to join the ning.

12. Email me and let me know the exciting things you are learning! celestia_shumway@yahoo.com.

13. If you are having a hard time getting into these books, which admittedly can be as dense as bricks, then take a break and read from a book geared more for love of learning, like all of Glenn Beck's books. They are funny and teach you history, politics, and government at the same time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Want to Be Like Her When I Grow Up

A few weeks ago my husband and I took our daughter on a special date to celebrate her birthday. We got to see Janeen Brady, of fame, in concert! My girlfriend Shauna hosted this rare treat. Janeen wrote all the music and lyrics to the Brite Music. She played several songs for us on the piano, all completely from memory. I was so amazed. She said we could ask her to play any of her songs, and she could probably do it from memory. After she did her prepared part, one person asked her to play "It's a Family" and she played it without a hitch. I want to be like her when I grow up!...to be able to play lots of songs on the piano with chords and embellishments, all from memory. Not just any songs, but songs that I wrote! (I have a girlfriend in my ward who writes songs and someday I hope to take some lessons from her. Hi Rachael!)

One of her songs is "When I Grow Up." It's about the dream of having babies and being a mom when you grow up. She asked everybody to sing with her and I couldn't for the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My grandma bought the sheet music for that song in a book of songs about being Mormon and gave it our family as a gift in a care package she sent up with our cousin one fall. I remember singing that song while I played it at the piano. (See .)Now that dream has come true! I do have seven babies of my own.

Janeen shared that she didn't start writing music until she was near 40 (sounds like Janice Kapp Perry). Also, that she had a big family of 9 children. I fit both of those, I'm pushing 40 and I have a gaggle of kids too. So there's hope for my creative talents! Janeen also shared that she wrote her songs because she wanted her children to have music that was uplifting for the other six days of the week, besides Sunday. They were starting to sing things like "I Love Trash" from Sesame Street and she wanted an alternative, jazzy, with a beat. All of her music is bouncy and bright. I have loved it for decades (wow, am I really that old?). I even once sold Brite Music, when my two oldest were real little and life was a lot less complicated.

Believe it or not, Janeen is still cranking out songs. Her daughter, a friend of mine, Michelle Brady Stone, is a homeschooling mom like me. Michelle asked her mom to write some songs to teach the multiplication tables for her kids. So Janeen has done it again. Her new CD is "It's Time to Times" and just like all the other Brite songs, it's a delightful hit! The above picture features Janeen and Michelle singing the cute football song that goes to the 8 times table. I don't think this new CD is available on the Web site yet because it's so new but will be soon hopefully. Janeen has got to be nearly 80 yet she looks much younger and has the health to still produce. Yes, I want to be like her when I grow up.

If you want to hear her sing and play, come to my friend Shauna's house on Wednesday December 9th. Bring your little ones and get inspired! You can also order the Time to Times CD there and buy her Christmas CD. Call the number below to let Shauna know you are coming so that she isn't surprised by too many people. The children will be sitting on the floor and adults are to bring their own chairs. She lives just off 106th South. Take that exit and go west, turn south at the bridge by the Maverik gas station and then turn left at Koradine Dr.

11:00 AM to 12 noon
1133 Koradine Drive
South Jordan, UT 84095

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

John Locke on Babies

We live in an exhilarating time. It seems that more and more, our freedoms are expanding with the advance of technology and societal mobility. Every time I pick up my cell phone I marvel at the capability of this teeny box to allow to me to take pictures, listen to mp3 files, and talk to people across distances. On Thanksgiving Day it was so fun to take pictures of my relatives and send them to other family members across the miles. Yet for all our freedom we have because of technology, we still have yet to appreciate the freedom that comes from the basic biology of simple, ancient things like mother's milk.

I was listening to Democracy in America yesterday. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about how in America, we have thrown off the rule of royalty but people are still figuring out the rule of law. I think that's true even today, over a hundred years later. Even though we have lots of freedom to do amazing things with our technology we are still learning to obey natural law.

John Locke is credited with putting forth the natural law that is involved with good government. The founders studied his writings and developed a government based on natural law in order to preserve freedom for the people.

I've been thinking a lot about the natural laws involved with babies since I recently had a darling baby boy. After having seven babies, I have observed some natural laws involved with babies. Like, babies don't reach their hands to meet at the midline of their bodies until they are about three months old. Babies like to lie with their head to the side and one arm extended and the other arm bent, the classic "fencer pose." Babies also always develop their motor control from first their head and then down to their toes.

I am also a La Leche League Leader so I think about breastfeeding a lot, even when I don't have a new baby around, because people call me with breastfeeding questions every month, and I have monthly meetings for breastfeeding support. Two cool ladies, who happen to be La Leche League Leaders as well as board-certified lactation consultants, already have developed the natural laws involved with breastfeeding. See them here If John Locke were to be around today and wrote what natural laws governed the flow of mother's milk, these laws would be it. It's crucial for society to understand these natural laws related to breastfeeding. The natural laws of breastfeeding relate to women's lib. A woman can't be truly free if she is forced to feed her baby a product, inferior to what her body is capable of making, because of ignorance. If she chooses to do so, fully aware of the consequences, that's fine, but if she is forced to use artificial baby milk because of lack of information that's sad.

As Anna Johnson, writer and fashionista, wrote in her book, The Yummy Mummy Manifesto:

"Nursing at will wherever and wherever she and the baby please is just about the most ancient and the most modern stand a mother can make. And it's important for one reason alone: Mothering is felt by everyone, but it is rarely seen. Society makes very little space for mothers, so we have to claim that space ourselves. What better way than engaging in a little gentle lactivism?. . .It's an amazing freedom that every mother should be able to try, enjoy, and fiercely protect.

Something like 70% of all babies are breastfed at birth but then that number drops considerably as time goes by so that around 10% of American babies are still nursing at a year old. I could google these numbers but I'm feeling a tad lazy and it seems like last time I checked that's what they were. Breastfeeding is incredibly important, but these numbers reflect that moms don't think it's as important as it is.

What would happen if someone on the 6 o'clock news came out and said the following... "This just in--fabulous substance is available to new moms. This neon pink liquid with sparkles kills germs, lowers the risk of baby and mom getting hundreds of diseases, including ear infections and breast cancer, feeds the baby as well, and has no environmental impact. Give it to your baby 8-12 times a day, even in the middle of the night when you would rather be sleeping. You will have much fewer doctor visits if you follow the directions properly. Warning: scientific studies shows that If you don't give it to your baby exclusively for at least six months he may be less intelligent and will be sick more often. Michael Jordan was fed this substance for three years. Michael Jackson wasn't." People would be all over it, asking where to buy it and and outbidding on eBay for it.

Well, here's a news flash: Mother's milk IS that substance, but because it is free, pale white and watery, and comes from our own bodies and not a conveyor belt, people tend to discount its incredible, unbeatable, lifesaving properties. Obstacles also come up. Sometimes there's not enough information and support for a mom to turn to in order to keep this liquid gold flowing and into baby.

I wonder why this is? I guess because society in general doesn't understand the natural laws that govern the making of mother's milk. Remember what de Tocqueville said. We have thrown off the rule of royalty but we still are learning to obey the rule of natural law. One of the laws is that "more milk out means more milk made." Even though this is my seventh baby I still marvel at how often new babies want to nurse. If I weren't an experienced mom and a La Leche League Leader, I can see how easy it would be to pass off the baby and have someone else feed him. But just like you have to go grocery shopping often if you are going to have food in your cupboards on a daily, continual, basis; you have to nurse often if you are going to make enough milk.

With a new baby, it's normal to be nursing whenever the baby is awake, and sometimes when the baby is snoozing too. I have a girlfriend who calls this the "sore buns theory:" You know you are nursing enough when you have sore buns from sitting so long. Why do babies have to nurse so much? Babies have stomachs the size of marbles on day one. They grow to the size of a shooter marble by day three and then a golf ball by day seven. They also need to triple their weight in a year. If you had to triple your weight in a year and had the stomach the size of a golf ball, you would be eating constantly too. I had to continually remind myself of these facts with this current baby.

"What, he wants to nurse again?! Didn't I just nurse him 5 (or 10 or 15) minutes ago? I want to finish cooking or getting dressed! (Forget painting my nails or annotating War and Peace.)" Mother's milk digests quickly. That fact along with the infinitesimal size of the baby's stomach means you have to nurse a LOT, like more than you ever would think is a lot. But the rewards are priceless. For example, with all my seven babies, we have only had one ear infection. I credit that to nursing my babies a lot, exclusively for at least the first six months for each, and limiting dairy in our diets.

So what do to? Embrace the spring season of mothering, that of breastfeeding and mothering a new baby. Settle in with a baby latched on and a "chick lit" book in the other hand. Enjoy the yummy life of a breastfeeding mom. One chick lit book I really love that celebrates the reality of life as a nursing mom is the one I mentioned above, The Yummy Mummy Manifesto by Anna Johnson. See I also like the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, although it's not quite as fun as Yummy Mummy, and So That's What They're For. If you want a nonbreastfeeding book, try something light like a Jack Weyland Novel. If you want something more meaningful try The Anatomy of Peace.